The special history of 'La Scarzuola' a dream place in the Umbrian hills a guest blog from Marij Lamers for Polmone
It takes some puzzling, but if you sit at Polmone on the terrace at Biblioteca or Cinema then you can see La Scarzuola, near the 13th-century castle of Montegiove; a dream place in the Umbrian hills with a long history.
Also not immediately visible are the traces of centuries-old roads that crossed this landscape. For example, Montegiove was on Via Appia, a road built by the Romans, connecting Rome with what is now Florence. And the Romans were not the first. They used Etruscan roads for the construction of the Via Appia and perfected them according to Roman custom. The Via Appia meandered in Umbria and Tuscany via Bolsena, to Montegiove and from there to Chiusi, Bagni San Filippo, Asciano, and via Siena on to Florence. In Chiusi you can still admire several Etruscan remains, including the Museo Civico La Citta Sotterranea.
Francis of Assisi
Centuries after the Etruscans and Romans, Francis of Assisi also traveled through this Umbrian landscape. He spent some time near Montegiove and built a hut from scarza, a locally occurring swamp plant. The seats of farmer's chairs were made from the straw of this plant and until recently it was still used to protect wine bottles. Later, at the end of the 13th century, the Franciscan monks founded a small monastery on this site, La Scarzuola, which was further expanded over the centuries.
The ideal dream city of Buzzi
An architect with a dream
In 1957, the now abandoned and dilapidated monastery complex was purchased by the Milanese architect Tomaso Buzzi who designed villas for the Milanese elite. He was also a designer and interior designer and as such one of the trendsetters of Italian taste in the 1930s and 1940s. With the purchase of La Scarzuola, Buzzi wanted to realize a long-held wish.
He built his being there ideal dream city, a dream place in the Umbrian hills. He had been working in silence on his ideal city for 25 years; a small-scale city with buildings that would reflect the history of architecture. In the Roman period, Hadrian realized a similar idea. At his country residence, the Villa Adriana in Tivoli, this Roman emperor had buildings, which he had seen during his campaigns, reconstructed to scale.
The worldly city of Buzzi
In the 'worldly city', which Buzzi modeled at La Scarzuola, you can recognize striking buildings from ancient Athens and Rome. There are also references to French architects from the time of the Revolution. The circular space with the dead cypress stands for the never realized burial monument that Étienne-Louis Boullée wanted to build for Isaac Newton. And the brick eye is the third eye that experiences everything. It is a reference to an engraving by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, designer of utopian buildings, but also of the theater in Besançon.
The holy city of Buzzi
La Scarzuola is, in addition to a reflection of the history of architecture, also one theater of the mind. Symbolized in seven theaters, including La Scala from Milan. The Biblical number seven always returns. The clocks stand still at seven o'clock. In the ideal city of Buzzi you can forget the time and the daily earthly life. There are many references to myths, esotericism and religion. The colonnade stands for the twelve works that Heracles had to perform, a representation of the burden of life. The Buddhist stupa represents the spiritual enlightenment. A big mouth, also seen in Il Parco dei Mostri in Bomarzo, is the entrance to the underworld.
The mouth of the whale is the story of biblical Jonas. Opposite the 'worldly city' stands the old monastery as the 'holy city', a kind of heaven. The monastery garden is a hortus conclusus, a garden closed off from the outside world, as a representation of paradise.
No tourist attraction
Buzzi's ideal city was not intended for the general public, but for himself and his friends, including the surrealist Salvador Dali. After his death, Buzzi wanted his dream city to be returned to nature. The city was not yet finished when he died in 1981.
A dream as a source of inspiration
Now his cousin Marco Solari is building on his uncle's dream. He does this based on the many sketches and notes that Buzzi left behind. An important source of inspiration for the ideal dream city turned out to be Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a mysterious book from 1499.
It was printed in Venice and is considered the most famous print from the Italian Renaissance. The typography is beautiful, illuminated with 172 woodcuts, a special feature at the time. The images of buildings, gardens and landscapes provide an explanation of the story: a dream in which Poliphilus undertakes a search for his beloved Polia. It is a allegorical quest in which the hero of the dark is led to the light. A kind of pagan Divina Commedia.
In the second part of the book the story is told again but from the perspective of the girl Polia. This part is reminiscent of the popular stories of Decamerone from Boccaccio.
But in addition to a love story, the book is also a kind of encyclopedia in which the writer has linked his knowledge of all possible subjects from antiquity to his own time in refined linguistic art.
Francesco Colonna, a Venetian monk, is generally referred to as the most likely author of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. The book reflects the 15th-century Venice, its abundance of precious products that were traded, its exuberant festivals and the lavish, spindly cuisine of the nobility.
As a monk, Colonna had an extensive library in his monastery. For example, in his book he would include passages from the Naturalis historia of the Roman Pliny. But also from tracts of Renaissance architects Leon Battista Alberti and Filarete, which is known from the bronze doors of the Saint Peter in Rome. The tract of Filarete also contains illustrations of fantastic buildings, including a circular ideal city.
Il Parco dei Mostri
The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is amazingly little translated. The first full translation into French appeared, almost three hundred years later, in 1883 and only in 1999 in 1999. In 2006 the book was first translated into Dutch as Poliphilus' dream. Despite the scarce translations, the book is influential been in European literature and the visual arts. Painters such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach and Jan van Scorel were particularly influenced by Colonna's book.
There are also clear traces in the history of landscape architecture. In Italy, for example, in the aforementioned Il Parco dei Mostri in Bomarzo (also to be visited from Polmone!), the mysterious 16th-century landscaped park created by Pier Francesco Orsini and dedicated to his wife, who died young. In France, Louis XIV was inspired by Colonna's garden fantasies in the construction of the park Versailles.
And many others
This Poliphilus dream has made many people dream, as an 18th-century poet once expressed and not only architects like Tomaso Buzzi when he dreamed about his ideal city and realized it (partly) in La Scarzuola, but also philosophers, writers and artists .
Dreaming at Polmone
And those who have discovered sitting on the terrace of Polmone La Scarzuola could also read A Venetian secret. An American thriller by Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason who tries to solve a number of riddles around the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.
Do you want to know more about this dream spot in the Umbrian hills? Then take a look around this site or just send us a message. Then we look together at what your dream apartment is.
But of course you can also see for yourself by entering your dream period below.
More tips from us to discover Umbria
Discovering Umbria - our tips for Orvieto
Discovering Umbria - our tips for Perugia
Discovering Umbria - our tips for tasting wine
Discovering Umbria - our tips for events where to go